How the Right Nutrition Can Support Your Workout

By: Mollie Shauger | Thursday, February 13, 2020 | Fitness

A man eating a banana at the gym. Credit: iStock

Whether your goal is to lose weight or gain muscle, or just stay in shape, a healthy diet for any workout routine should be the right balance of carbohydrates, lean protein sources, and some fats. 

“Skimping on nutrition can reduce muscle mass, lower bone density and cause fatigue,” according to the Mayo Clinic, and put you at risk for injuries or other health problems.

Health and nutrition experts say the right nutrition helps to restore the glycogen energy in your muscles that you expend while exercising. This is especially important if your workouts focus on strength training.

Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind for your next workout.

Before your workout:

Aim to have a snack or meal one to three hours before your workout so you have the energy you need. Try these combos from the American College of Sports Medicine for the right balance of carbs, protein and fats:

  • Oatmeal with berries, a few nuts, low-fat Greek yogurt and water
  • Grilled chicken, brown rice, green beans and unsweetened-tea
  • Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato and avocado, a fruit and water

If you’re short on time, eat a granola bar, banana or dry cereal or crackers 30 minutes before you exercise.

If your stomach doesn’t do well with morning meals, try a fruit smoothie or a liquid meal supplement.

Drink 17-20 ounces of water two hours before exercising, according to the American Council on Exercise.

During your workout:

Stay hydrated: ACE recommends 7-10 ounces of fluid every 10-20 minutes during exercise.

For more intense workouts that go longer than an hour, the American Heart Association advises eating low-calorie snacks like low-fat yogurt, raisins, or a banana every 30 minutes.

After your workout:

While expert advice varies on the timing, most professionals recommend eating as soon as possible, ideally within two hours after exercising. Proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats are all essential for the body's recovery. Good post-workout snacks include low-fat chocolate milk, yogurt with fruit and honey, smoothies with low-fat milk, whey protein and fruit.

If you’re on the go, eat a quick snack right after a workout, then follow it up with a meal of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, veggies and fluid.

Hydrate to replace what you sweat out by drinking at least eight ounces of water within 30-minutes of your workout. Fruits like oranges and watermelon are also a good source of water.

If you’re looking to gain muscle...

Carbohydrates and protein are essential for muscle growth and energy recovery. According to Aim for a minimum of 0.25 grams of protein per kilogram of weight combined with some carbohydrate. “The best post workout meal for muscle gain could come from whole foods, supplemental nutrition — such as protein powders, bars and meal replacements — or a mix.”

Disclaimer: This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. While we draw on the knowledge of industry professionals, you should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional health and nutrition advice. Each person’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. Consult your doctor if you have concerns or questions.


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